Survey after survey and study after study have concluded that credentialed veterinary technicians aren’t appropriately utilized, given their training and education. Yes, your technicians are likely extremely busy and engaged at work, but that isn’t the same as using them where they are actually needed. Technicians who are treated as do-it-all staff members and pulled in a million directions cannot appropriately support your veterinarians.
If you feel that your veterinarians are overburdened and you need to hire more, you might find that hiring more technicians, using them to their full capabilities, and hiring more support staff for non-skilled tasks that weigh your technicians down can fill the gap.
How technician utilization improves practice performance
Technicians can do far more than most veterinarians and managers realize. Technicians must complete extensive training in tasks that many practices deem veterinarians only should perform (e.g., cystocentesis, bandage and splint applications, skin and ear sample collection and analysis, uncomplicated urinary catheter placement, and wound and incision suturing). And, these are only the basics—technicians in specialty roles often learn additional complex skills.
A 2022 survey found only 40% of technicians feel fully utilized in their current roles. This echoes the current “utilization meter” found on vtutilization.com, which offers a practice self-assessment tool to consolidate how veterinary practices think they’re doing with how they are actually doing in this area. When technicians are allowed to perform the tasks for which they were trained, significant time is freed up for the veterinarians to do what they do best—surgery, diagnosis, prognosis, and prescribing.
Consider how long a typical outpatient appointment takes from start to finish—history, examination, estimates, diagnostics, filling prescriptions, client education, and checkout can take an hour or more, but the veterinarian actually needs to spend significantly less time on these cases. The veterinarian can breeze through 15- to 20-minute appointment slots when enough technicians are available to take over each case, dictate a treatment plan, and move on. That would require at least three technicians per veterinarian on duty, plus assistants to help those technicians complete patient care tasks.
Attracting and keeping technicians in your practice
Rather than hiring more veterinarians, who will flounder without backing from the necessary support staff, first try hiring more technicians and support staff. You can attract and retain credentialed technicians by recognizing their true worth and their investment in their education. You can likely hire two credentialed technicians and offer them a generous salary and benefits package well above the current average for the same amount allocated for a single new clinician. Plus, a 2009 study found that each credentialed technician hired can bring in close to $100,000 in new annual revenue—a number likely significantly higher in 2023—further justifying a livable wage that more closely approximates human nurses’ salaries.
Appropriate technician utilization, plus their own support staff (i.e., kennel and technician assistants), will increase your technicians’ job satisfaction and keep them in your practice longer. This, in turn, will significantly improve efficiency and veterinary productivity, which equally benefits patients, clients, and the practice. So, don’t put up that help-wanted ad for a veterinarian just yet—instead, consider re-investing that money in your existing staff, provide training to bolster skill levels, and let team members do the job they were trained to do.
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